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Brown-tailed moth caterpillar
The brown-tailed moth caterpillar (euproctis
chrysorrhoea) is a fairly common pest in the south-east of
England, where it will frequently eat all the leaves on any number
of trees and shrubs.
While the presence of this pest can lead to significant
localised outbreaks if it is not controlled, only those trees or
shrubs stressed by disease or drought are likely to die.
In spring the caterpillars emerge from their silken tents and
proceed to feed on the leaves and buds of trees and shrubs. They
are up to 38mm in length and covered in tufts of light brown hair
with two lines of white hair on their backs.
Adult moths, which emerge in July, lay batches of up to 500 eggs
in August. Young caterpillars hatch a few weeks later and feed on
leaves until leaf fall in the autumn. Throughout this period,
caterpillars are smaller and covered in dark brown hairs, with two
noticeable orange warts at one end.
During late summer and autumn, caterpillars construct
conspicuous white silken tents on exposed branches, in which they
Apart from eating the leaves of trees and shrubs, the
caterpillars have a secret weapon that can cause problems. Their
bodies are covered with minute, barbed hairs. These can affect some
people by causing irritation to the skin, eyes or respiratory
Although the irritation should only last a few hours, avoidance
is far better than cure. If handling these pests, it is recommended
that areas of bare skin be covered and that rubber gloves and a
facemask are used. If you have a reaction to these caterpillars,
medical advice should be sought from your GP.
If noticed during the winter months, the tents can be carefully
cut off and burnt. However between April and June and from August
to October, the pest is somewhat more difficult to control, as the
caterpillars are on the move.
For small infestations in private gardens, an application of a
pesticide formulated for caterpillars is advised. Pesticides for
domestic use are available from garden and DIY centres. Before
applying pesticides, always read the manufacturer’s
a diseased tree